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Judy Garland: The Secret Life of an American Legend Paperback – June 1, 1994

17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Big, heart-heavy bio of Garland that--though never stylish- -holds throughout. Shipman wrote the huge, chatty film history The Story of Cinema (1984). One wonders, starting out, what new stuff Shipman has dug up. Whole books study passages in Garland's life, such as the making of The Wizard of Oz and of A Star Is Born, and the shooting of her TV series. Must we settle for fresh dirt on her sex life? Yes, her bisexuality takes up a page or two; her husband/director Vincente Minnelli's homosexuality is scanned; and, at one point, we find Garland climbing into the back seat and fellating her gay hairdresser after she's failed to bring her driver to climax by hand. But such ginger-flavored passages are fairly rare. What we really get is the unbelievable downhill slide of a stupendous talent who could reduce seven thousand people at once to sloppy tears, even near her end. At the age of 12, she sang like ``a woman with a heart that had been hurt.'' Though a child, Garland outstripped her two older sisters in their stage act together. One wonderful night as an adult, when she ran out of encores, the audience sang ``Auld Lang Syne'' to her. Garland rises time and again here through death's trapdoor, each resurrection thrilling as she gets back up and rips out her heartstrings. This is a sad story: Pills, pills, pills, from girlhood on. Huge earnings, endless hospitals. Slit wrists, blamed on her mother, and teenage daughter Liza caring for Garland's crumbling ego. Tax problems, quarrels with film and TV studios, broken contracts, cancellations. Then the Big Cancel. If you can take it, it's a great story. (Twenty-four pages of b&w photographs) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (June 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786880260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786880263
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,997,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an odd, yet interesting book on the life of Ms. Garland. Considering Mr. Shipman's credentials, it cannot be just dismissed. A large book (515 pages of actual reading is substantial!), I was unable to put it down when I first read it and yet, it speculates so much on an aspect of her personal life, that it really does require a second reading in order to digest all that he claims to be fact. Not that it's a "trash" novel, but it does make a fan of Ms. Garland's stand back and take a look at what it claims to be fact. Still, worth buying and reading, possibly reading more than once.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Holland on August 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To those people who claim that Shipman does indeed hate Judy need to take a closer look. His book is rich in documentation that supports his research. Furthermore, you can telll he was a devoted fan that can still be objective regarding her talent and her misgivings and faults. We have to remember the duress that Judy endured, the people who abandoned her when she most needed help, the promises of the studios to give her time off to replenish her energy and the monstrous effect of Louis B. Mayer. No wonder Liza has problems of her own. She was affected first hand. This review is fair to the artist without tarnishing her talent and accessibility to the public, as well as her warmth. A great read!
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Format: Hardcover
This book goes into incredible detail about Judy and her amazing life. She was so talented that at times, it seemed unbelievable. However, most people know her greatest love was her fans. She had a really rough life, though; trying to always please her fans, even at her own expense. I think David Shipman has written an immense book on her life, both the good and the bad. I believe that most of it is accurate. However, it breaks my heart to know some of the details about her, such as the cries for help in suicide attempts (that were often) and her belief that she was sick when sometimes she wasn't. Her work ethics were deplorable and when you read this book, you can honestly see why no-one wanted to work with her because of her tardiness and lackadaisical attitude of how she felt that people could just wait for her, even when it was costing a fortune to hold movie taking until she would finally arrive to film. As for the comments by readers that they were not happy about his writing of her sexual tastes, what perfect world do they live in? Hollywood had all of these traits in hundreds of their stars - so what? After all, her father was gay and her first husband was gay too! She was to be pitied because she was just trying to find solace and love that was so elusive for her. As for the drugs, she was given them all her life, starting with her mother. Because of her life, as it was, it is easy to see why she became an addict. I was really shocked at all the people in the end, who turned on her and how sad it was that she was relentlessly pursued by the IRS, how near the end, she was basically homeless and also flat out broke ! ! All in all, an incredible talent that was either loved or hated, but boy, could she sing ! ! ! Remember Judy for her talent and how people loved her when she sang her heart out and forget the bad memories. She is gone and should be remembered for how wonderful she was ! !
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By tgirl on April 4, 2015
Format: Paperback
Terrible, just terrible. So bad I couldn't finish it. Not knowing anything about Mr. Shipman, my conclusion was that the book was written by over the top fan who worshipped the legend and either was in denial about or wanted nothing to do with the real person under the hype. How this got published, I'll never know, but don't waste your money on this book.
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By Gothguy on March 2, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book arrived as described, and securely packaged. Thank you!
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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful By a viewer on November 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have to go with the general consensus on this biography. Mr. Shipman has his details muddled and inaccurate in many aspects. How he can go into such detail about Judy's private life, sexual deviances, etc. is astonishing....was HE actually present during the actions he describes?? That's the only way he could be so "forthright and honest"....hah!! Also, it seems Mr. Shipman thinks that everyone with whom Judy was involved was homosexual or bisexual. Heck, he goes on to state that nearly everyone in Hollywood is homosexual. Obviously, Mr. Shipman himself would qualify in this category as he seems obssessed with the subject. It is inferred to in every chapter of this non-sensical biography. We know Judy had problems, no one is denying that. Fans can accept the truth about her but have something substantive with which to back up your claims.....not just hearsay. This biography stinks and is an insult to the memory of Judy Garland. As someone else suggested, read "Rainbow...the Stormy Life of Judy Garland"......that is the best Garland biography ever and does not shortchange or mislead the reader in any way!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R Grant on May 20, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Of the many Garland biographies out there, this one is by far one of the best, because it isn't written by a crazed fan. Shipman did a good job detailing the highs and lows of Judy Garland's life. He is not judgmental when he delves into the stories of her lifelong addiction to barbiturates and amphetamines. It's amazing she lasted as long as she did--these drugs were prescribed and given to her by MGM staff and physicians--and by her mother, Ethel, when she was barely a teenager. So, that set the stage for a lifetime of really HIGH highs, and very LOW lows...It is a heartbreaking but also inspiring biography of one of the most amazing stars the world has ever seen. Fans of Judy Garland will have an even deeper appreciation of her amazing, tragic, legendary life after reading "Judy Garland--The Secret Life of an American Legend." It's hard to put down.
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